Toronto
2 min

Miss Guidance says

You're probably fucked already

LIAR. "I have dirty, icky stuff in my soul," says author Mariko Tamaki. Credit: Xtra files

Mariko Tamaki is a natural born bossy boots. Brassy, outspoken and usually dressed in a starched-to-rigor nurse’s uniform, Tamaki, like Moses before her, casts her all-seeing eye on the stony, scorpion infested desert that is Toronto social life – then hauls off with few choice commandments to make life easier for us simple goatherds.



Thankfully, federal law prohibits her from carrying a large staff.



Small wonder Tamaki’s latest book, the very funny essay collection True Lies, is subtitled “The Book Of Bad Advice.” But bad advice? Surely this is some sort of false modesty – Tamaki doesn’t get out of bed with less than 10,000 opinions.



“Listen,” Tamaki tells me with an audible straightening of her spine, “if you call it good advice and something goes wrong you get sued. The ‘bad’ in the title is like ‘made with real fruit juice.’ I gotta protect myself.



“Having said that, if you need a book to figure out your life, you’re fucked already.”



If True Lies’ corrosive and Dorothy Parker-esque stories of teen trauma, drinking, parental strife, drinking, bisexuality and drunken university dorm cot-hopping are even half true, the 27-year-old writer/performer has already done enough deliciously foolish stuff to write her own full blown autobiography, her own Horschack Nation. What, then, kept her from putting out one of those sensitive (and very profitable), coming-of-age-with-a-hyphenated-identity books, a Cereus Blooms In The Mushroom Garden At Night By The Electrical Fields?



“Aaack! Those books!” Tamaki spits. “I don’t have that whimsical mindset, or experience. I am Japanese-Canadian, but I have dirty, icky stuff in my soul, not poignancy and lotus flowers. I don’t think you’re allowed to tell blowjob stories in those books.”



If I had the balls, I’d tell Tamaki that her book is actually packed with enough poignancy to fill half a dozen Anne Wheeler films. The essays about her sweet, mutually-confused relationship with her father, her stumbles toward full blown lesbianism, her early, clumsy attempts at sluttiness and a twisted, yet adorable story about trying to get some action at a Christian ski camp, are full of the kinds of sideways glances and self negating humour you’d expect from poor old Erma Bombeck – that is, if Erma Bombeck drank, swore, fucked around and typed with her eyes open.



The difference between Tamaki and so many writers who’ve mined the same, track-worn memoir shaft is that Tamaki is not interested in making her readers feel cozy, as if they are on familiar terrain. The bitter sweet feelings the book engenders come from being let in – and then let loose in – another’s very different experience, not from simple recognition humour.



Now that she’s officially set up as a sex/life adviser, Tamaki is taking all comers. “I could totally arm-wrestle that ooga-booga spiritual sex guy Andrew Kelm to the ground. And after, when’s he’s busy ‘healing,’ I’ll beat him in a staring contest!”



* True Lies is launched at 7pm on Thu, May 16 at Tallulah’s Cabaret (12 Alexander St). The event is free; call (416) 975-8555.